The annual Rebelle Rally is a unique event. Not only is it the longest off-road rally in the US, but the competitors are all-women. This year, 10 automakers, including Ford, Rivian, and BMW, had vehicles vying for the podium. Our Stephanie Hart met up with the competitors in the middle of the California desert to show us how the Rebelle Rally blends their love of driving with the ultimate challenge of precise navigation.
STEPHANIE HART: It’s so peaceful and beautiful out here. 65 teams of 2 will be competing in 4×4 and X-CROSS stock vehicles. The women will be driving up to 200 miles a day, navigating a variety of checkpoints, and they’re doing it the old school way with just a map and a compass.
The fierce Rebelle Rally competition takes place over eight days covering more than 1,300 miles of iconic off-road terrain. It’s not a race for speed. It’s a competition where precision driving and navigation take the driver’s seat. The 130 competitors start at Mammoth Mountain in California and end up at the California/Mexican border in the Glamis Imperial Sand Dunes.
Along the way, the terrain is stunning, but also intimidating. A combination of dirt roads, double tracks, trails, and sand dunes.
EMILY MILLER: The best way to be a badge of honor is to make it tough. To be something that they’re proud of winning or that they’re proud of just crossing the finish line.
STEPHANIE HART: Training to just get here is intense and typically takes months.
LAURA WANLASS: We had seat time. We practiced navigation techniques. So, it’s a lot of preparation if you want to be successful.
STEPHANIE HART: There are compass and map challenges and endurance challenges; either being on route or on time. There’s a lot of stopping along the way to problem solve; and getting stuck, like this, happens. In the end, the highest score wins.
KRIS VOCKLER: It’s like a cold plunge for 6 days, 7 days. What brings me back is this makes me a better leader, better mom and a better friend.
STEPHANIE HART: Participants come from a broad range of professions with a large number of women in science, technology, engineering and math. This year temperature fluctuations along the way were insane. It was only 14 degrees at the start of the rally and 110 degrees at the end. The rally is a rigorous test for people and vehicles, especially EVs. Along the way, Renewable Innovations used green hydrogen to charge the EVs.
LILLY MACARUSO: It’s a game of time versus efficiency versus a lot of control with your skinny pedal to make sure you have efficiency throughout the day.
STEPHANIE HART: I had the opportunity to experience what it was like to be a competitor; taking a few off-road adventures in the sand dunes and learning how to navigate tough terrain without any tech.
One of the really cool things about the Rebelle Rally is it shows you just how capable the adventure vehicles in your driveway really are!
It’s an unpredictable journey out here in the Glamis Sand Dunes and that’s half the fun of it.
Needless to say, off-roading in the sand dunes in the extreme heat had me drinking more Gatorades than I could carry on most days. And I camped out in these tents for three nights nearby the teams. Clearly, I was very grateful for this nearby industrial fan and took full advantage.
From mud to mascara, the Rebelle Rally finale kicks off with a red-carpet event, music, a Michelin star chef dinner and an awards ceremony.
In the 4×4 class, Lilly Macaruso and Alex Anderson won first place in a 2023 Rivian R1T. This is the first time an EV has ever won the Rebelle Rally. The women have come a long way, last year they were rookies in the competition. Both are Rivian employees.
ALEX ANDERSON: We have a really unique perspective on it. We know these vehicles ins and out and we worked on it so it’s a little bit of an honor there.
STEPHANIE HART: In the X-CROSS class, Melissa Clark and Jessica Moore won first place in a 2022 Ford Bronco Sport.